WILLIAM J. CLAYWELL, familiarly known as "Jasper" Claywell, stands second to no man in Scott County, in point of popularity and genuine worth of character. Personally he is of robust, portly frame, six feet two in height, and weighing 300 lbs. Within this ample frame nature has placed a heart in keeping with its other proportions - one which feels for its fellow-men, has always an impulse of kindness toward the unfortunate and downfallen, and which prompts the bestowal of substantial aid. A man more than ordinarily devoted to his family, Mr. Claywell is also, outside of this, uniformly benevolent and active in all good works, a devoted Christian, and prominent in church circles, one who is looked up to as the moving spirit in every good enterprise and who not only gives his time and influence, but contributes of his means as he has opportunity.
One of the peculiarities of Mr. Claywell is his force of character, mingled with great native ability and sound common sense. These have been his attendants in all his walks in life, whether exercised as beneficiary to his fellow-men or in the immediate surroundings of his home. The latter perhaps is more plainly stamped with his true character, and on all sides there is the evidence of industry, enterprise and ample means. The dwelling is a neat and substantial frame structure, while the fences, yards, barns and other outbuildings denote on every hand thrift and prosperity. The homestead forms a picture delightful to contemplate and the proprietor is one of those men who to meet is a matter of solid satisfaction, not alone to the biographer, but to all who are thrown within the sphere of his influence. Mr. Claywell owns and operates 174 acres of choice land, pleasantly located on section 1, township 13, range 13. He purchased this in the fall of 1852, and cleared all but ten acres of it, which was fenced at the time of purchase. In addition to general farming he has been largely interested as a stock-raiser, making a specialty of thoroughbred, Short-horn cattle and Poland-China swine. One of his maxims is "the fewer promises a man makes, the better he is off." Following out this idea he has been especially prompt to meet his obligations and this habit concisely adhered to has perhaps more than anything else the effect to establish a man in the esteem of his fellow citizens.
Mr. Claywell was born at the old Claywell homestead Aug. 8, 1831, and acquired his education in the primitive log school-house, with its puncheon floor and slabs for seats and desks, and its huge fireplace, with the chimney built outside of earth and sticks. He was a bright and ambitious boy and when but fifteen years old, assisted in the organization of subscription schools. He has always taken a lively interest in educational matters and especially in the Sand Ridge school to which he donated land for the grounds and otherwise assisted in its establishment and maintenance. At the age of twenty years he was married, Aug. 7, 1851, to Miss Permelia, daughter of Bird and Harriet (Williams) Peak, who were among the earliest pioneers of Scott County, and are now residents of Winchester. A sketch of them will be found on another page of this volume.
After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Claywell lived upon a rented farm two seasons, and then removed to that which they now occupy. Here there were born their nine children, the eldest of whom, Hattie, died when fifteen months old. Bird is married and a resident of Scott County; he has three children - Annie, Permelia and Charles. John Married a Miss New, and is a traveling salesman for the firm of Walter A. Woods, manufacturer of harvesting machinery; he has one child, William J., Jr. William J., died at the age of six years; Lucinda died in infancy; Cornelia is the wife of Joseph McClure, and has charge of our subject's farm; they have one child, Elmer. Thomas married Miss Emma Taylor, is a resident of Kansas, and has two children - Percy Mabel and Lilly; Olive and Dolly, (twins) died in infancy. Mr. and Mrs. Claywell are members in good standing of the Christian Church, at Winchester, in which Mr. Claywell has been a Trustee and one of its most liberal supporters. Politically, he supports the principles of the Republican party, and has been Township Treasurer seven or eight years.
The parents of our subject were Joel and Lucinda (Cain) Claywell, natives of Cumberland County, Ky., to which the paternal grandfather removed from North Carolina, and where he spent the remainder of his days. Joel Claywell remained in Kentucky until after his marriage and the birth of two children, then in 1826, came to Illinois with his little family and settled on section 6, township 12, range 13. The country was then mostly in its primitive condition and the Claywell family experienced all the vicissitudes of pioneer life. In Scott County, there were added to the family circles seven more children, in all there were four sons and five daughters. William J. was the eldest son. The father for a time after coming West operated as pilot on the flatboats of the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers. These crafts were utilized in conveying produce from this county to New Orleans. William J. thus was left at an early age in charge of the homestead. The land in this region was then heavily timbered and the neighborhood log-rollings, while furnishing plenty of laborious work, where also the occasion of hilarity and pleasure among the young people who assembled in the evenings for enjoyment. The grain for many years was cut with cradles and a large proportion of it was harvested by our subject and six other young men who worked together and were experts at the business, doing a large proportion of the cradling in their neighborhood. These employments served to develop strong and sturdy frames, and made the men, who, later, were instrumental in developing the resources of the country and building up their community, morally as well as financially.
Mrs. Claywell was born on the old Peak homestead, April 16, 1835, and lived there with her parents until leaving the home roof to preside over a household of her own. She has been in all respects the suitable partner of her husband and both enjoy the unqualified respect of all who know them.